Stephen Garcia Suspended: Is This the Last Straw?

As you undoubtedly know by now, Stephen Garcia has been suspended indefinitely by USC athletics director Eric Hyman. The internet rumors regarding the suspension have been swirling around Garcia misbehaving at a recent athletics department function, either by coming drunk or by simply acting up. Travis Haney confirmed that this  evening, writing that

The senior has been suspended for the second time this spring, after an incident last night at a life-skills-building/leadership function on campus.

However, nothing regarding exactly what happened is official yet, and Hyman has only said the following:

"Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right," said Hyman. "We have expectations for our student-athletes and we make them aware that there are consequences for their actions. Stephen has exhibited behavior that is unacceptable for one of our student-athletes. Therefore, he has forfeited the privilege to participate in any football related activity until further notice."

Whatever the reason for Garcia's suspension--and I'm assuming we'll learn soon--these are strong words from Hyman. When the AD gets directly involved, you know you have a serious situation on your hands, and indefinite suspensions typically aren't used other than when there's a solid possibility that a permanent dismissal is in the works.

As always, we should give Garcia the benefit of the doubt until all the facts are out. That said, it certainly appears that he's done something very serious, and even if it's not terribly serious, the argument could be made that Garcia should be on a zero-tolerance policy, meaning that any minor infraction could lead to dismissal. And really, if this infraction has any level of seriousness, how can Hyman and Steve Spurrier not dismiss Garcia and maintain any credibility regarding disciplinary standards? We're talking about a player who at this point is getting close to double digits in run-ins with the law and bad publicity. You can't let someone like that off with another week-long suspension and say you're committed to a high-character football program.

And the truth is, this is a high-character football program now. The guys Spurrier has recruited in recent years are both talented and the kind you can rely on for good ambassadorship and locker-room leadership. Although recruited by Spurrier, Garcia is much more like the kinds of players Lou Holtz recruited. (Of course, it could easily be argued that even Holtz didn't have anyone with quite the penchant for repeated distracting antics that Garcia has.)  Maybe, despite his talents, the distractions Garcia brings just aren't worth it anymore. Maybe it's time to cut ties with Garcia so we can take a last step into a new generation for Carolina football.

By the way, while this may seem anti-intuitive to some, personally, I'm more inclined to say that Garcia should be dismissed if alcohol wasn't involved. Alcoholism is a disease, and while his behavior is in some regards fairly typical of college male behavior, his tendency to continue to damage his reputation with his partying is certainly alarming. I wouldn't want to throw Garcia under the bus if what he really needs is, at the very least, the chance to show that he's interested in treatment. Last time I checked, though, assholism isn't a protected category, and if this is just about Garcia acting up and making a fool of himself sans alcohol at the event in question, perhaps that's where we should assign him.

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